Workload Consolidation: Meeting the Challenges of Runaway Traffic Growth

By Jeni Panhorst, Intel - Jeni Panhorst is a Senior Product Line Manager at Intel. Reach her on Twitter at @jeni_p.

When we talk to network operators, we hear many common themes: The traditional methods of building networks cannot keep pace with exponential traffic growth without creating significant CapEx and OpEx cost challenges. For the by-now familiar demands of mobility, video, social media, and the Internet of Things, data traffic from 2010 to 2023 is predicted to grow a thousand-fold, and to grow in complexity as it swells in volume.

To meet that kind of demand while remaining profitable, operators have to find quicker, more efficient ways to scale out new and existing networking services. That means networks must move from being dominated by fixed-function equipment to being dominated by flexibility. Networks now are undergoing transformation, adopting new approaches like Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN), enabling scalability and economies of scale to allow operators to minimize costs and maximize revenue in the face of skyrocketing traffic growth.

4:1 Workload Consolidation on Intel Architecture

At Intel, we have been optimizing Intel Architecture (IA) for network infrastructure for 10+ years. We are concerned with helping operators of wireline and wireless public networks, as well as data center operators within enterprise IT and cloud, solve their scalability challenges. This requires a strong partnership across not only the operators themselves, but also the equipment manufacturers and the ecosystem.

Our first focus has been consolidating the four key networking workloads on Intel® architecture. These four key workloads and examples include:

  • Application & Services Processing: Equipment dependent, this can include security, network optimization, billing, and operations
  • Control Processing: Session & call management, route table management
  • Packet Processing: Efficient movement of packets through network devices
  • Signal Processing: Video and voice transcoding, wireless baseband processing

Historically, these workloads have been addressed by different architectures, and in many cases custom silicon. With advanced architectural innovations and optimized software, Intel is now delivering a flexible platform on which to build any network function. This, coupled with industry-leading development tools and capabilities like Intel® Virtualization Technology, sets the stage for new network deployments based on NFV & SDN.

Efficient packet and data plane processing is central to building any network element. Critical to enabling our customers and partners to reap the benefits of 4:1 workload consolidation, Intel has delivered the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK). DPDK is a set of drivers, libraries and sample code optimized for specific advances in IA to deliver compelling data plane performance – performance that has increased more than 25x in just a few short years. Our customers have harnessed DPDK, either via open source or through commercial solutions offered by our partners Wind River, Calsoft, Tieto, and 6Wind to build solutions in all key areas of network infrastructure. Full details on DPDK are available at

Beyond DPDK, we’re excited to take you on a journey through many more IA technologies and innovations to build compelling solutions to enable network operators to build capacity more cost effectively, while at the same time creating new revenue streams. Check back (or set your feeds!) for upcoming introductions to:

  • Intel® QuickAssist Technology: Hardware acceleration for cryptography and compression available in Intel processors and chipsets, critical in meeting increased security demands and optimizing network traffic
  • Hyperscan: Industry-leading software-based pattern matching for deep packet inspection (DPI), enabling efficient threat management and policy enforcement
  • Intel® Media SDK for Linux: Software development toolkit that leverages Intel graphics hardware acceleration engines to provide faster, more efficient, real-time video transcoding
  • Intel® System Studio: A suite of analyzers, debuggers, compilers, and libraries to speed development of software on IA platforms, with some specific innovations for networking workloads, such as LTE signal processing
  • Intel® Transcede SoCs: A new addition to Intel’s portfolio with the acquisition of the wireless assets of Mindspeed* Technologies, these are products for small cell basestations.

We look forward to leading this journey!